Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column

Talking Auburn football, basketball and baseball in the latest edition of the Friday Auburn Mailbag.

mattree: Jason, in your opinion, why has AU struggled to score runs in baseball?  I see three players they where counting on struggling in Haecker, Gray, and Robert.  Do you see those guys turning it around soon or being replaced in the lineup?

I think the biggest thing for the Tigers is trying to get used to a having some freedom once again at the plate. They’re still trying to teach concepts and approach at the plate because they didn’t have that time to work with the players in the fall. Because of that I think we will see them continue to get better as they get more and more time together. As for replacing starters, I think Coach Butch Thompson and this staff have identified the guys they believe are their best players and they’ll stick with them for the most part. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a guy like J.J. Shaffer get a look at some point, however.



m5guy: Two questions if I may. What's going on with Stephen Davis Jr. - maybe I missed the latest on him. Why is it so difficult for our Baseball Teams to return to the success Hal Baird had?

As of now nothing has changed with Stephen Davis Jr. There are still some academic things he’s working on so that has him in limbo at the moment. There is a chance the prospect will join the Auburn team.

As for the difficulties in baseball, one of the things has been the growth of the sport throughout the rest of the league. In the 80s and 90s you really had Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and to some degree Florida and Georgia to worry about until Arkansas and South Carolina came into the league. That has now changed with every program putting major dollars into making baseball great. That increased competition combined with the uphill battle against lottery states makes it tougher.



grayjaytiger: Any update on TJ Neal's plans to join Auburn?  Did I miss any recent news?  Some were concerned he might change his mind with Lovie Smith taking over at Illinois.  How long does he have to decide?

He’s still planning on heading to Auburn. He will graduate from Illinois on May 14 and start classes at Auburn on May 18. I think the lure of playing in the SEC is huge for him along with the opportunity waiting for him.



wtbtiger: How many scholarships does Bruce have to give? He has a good class coming in.What is the BB eeds for next year?

Right now the plan is to add another point guard and another big man to the roster. Those could come from the high school ranks, juco or even post-grad once again. No question they’re looking to add help at those two positions.



cletisthecat: How would you assess the football team's attitude this spring, compared to what you saw, heard, and felt last year at this time?

I think the attitude of this team is very different from a year ago. That team believed they were ready to be really, really good, but I think they forgot the work that has to go along with reaching that plateau. This team is showing signs that it is hungry to bounce back from last season's 7-6 record.



mgmzebra: Am I correct in saying there seems to be more leaders speaking out this time of year since 2010? Who are the players following?

This team is searching for leadership on both sides of the ball and so far several guys are stepping up. Some of them are Marcus Davis, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Devaroe Lawrence. I think all of those guys are doing a good job.



nhill76: How many tackles on both offense and defense do you foresee the staff taking in this year's class? What is your early prediction on which LB end up on the commit list?

I think they’ll probably try to sign at least three offensive tackles in this class and maybe a fourth player who could be a guard or tackle. As for defense I think probably a pair of tackles at the most. As for my early predictions on the linebackers I’ll go with Markail Benton, Will Ignont, T.D. Moultry and Chandler Wooten. That would make Travis Williams a very happy man.



alcar7: this defensive front is as talented and deep across the board since year _ _ _ _?

I’m not ready to put this one up with some of the ones in the 1980’s or even 1993, but if they could reach the level of 2007 that would be pretty good. That team had Josh Thompson, Pat Sims and Sen’Derrick Marks inside with Antonio Coleman and Quentin Groves outside. The 2010 group was good, too, with Nick Fairley, Mike Blanc, Zach Clayton, Nosa Eguae and Antoine Carter with Dee Ford and Corey Lemonier waiting in the wings.



aunatchamps: Heard a rumor that the NCAA told Auburn it could not have recruits play video games on the big video board at the stadium because it was an unfair recruiting advantage for Auburn. Heard Malzahn went off on the NCAA. Any truth to this and what is the status?

That happened and to my knowledge nothing has changed on that front. The NCAA has very little rhyme or reason for some of the things they do and this is one of them.



tigerpi: Jason, what are coach Pearl's options for adding someone to next year's class. Does the fact that coach Pearl allowed Trayvon to return to team mean he thinks that Trayvon can contribute next year. I believe that if he can give AU 15 solid minutes a game it can really help the team next year.

I think they’re hopeful that Trayvon Reed can really become a physical presence inside. He looks good and definitely has the size now that he is up close to 260 pounds. If he could be a four point, four rebound and a few blocked shots per game guy that would be a bonus to give Horace Spencer a breather.


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